Sam Mewis knows that Jill Ellis is always watching. Saturday night Ellis was up close and personal at Sahlen’s Stadium where she performed the ceremonial coin toss before watching Mewis and the Flash torment Sky Blue FC, 5-2.
“She kind of snuck in,” Mewis said afterwards. “I knew in the locker room before the game because we heard she was going to do the coin toss.”
Mewis is a recent addition to Ellis’s national team rotation. Added to the group following the World Cup and what was a very successful rookie season in NWSL, Mewis now has her sights set on securing a coveted spot on this summer’s Olympic team.
The 23-year-old tries not to think about the bigger picture, even when she finds out the woman who has final say over that roster is in the building. “I tried not to think about it. I didn’t want it to mess me up either. I am glad that she saw us put a good performance together and get a win.
“It was a great opportunity for everyone. Jill saw us put a great game together and I’m happy for all my teammates that got exposure. It’s great and it definitely shows that the national team staff is paying attention to the league and every game matters.”
Ellis picked the perfect night to drop in on the Flash. After scoring three goals in their first five matches, the Flash broke out with a beautiful display of soccer that saw them lead 3-0 after 23 minutes on the way to the lopsided victory. Mewis was in on things much of the night, doing her usual thing in midfield and showing her height and hops by getting up to head in her third goal of the season after Sky Blue was unable to clear out a corner kick.
“It felt really good,” she said. “It was a really good team win tonight. It felt really good to put some goals in the back in the net. We’ve been struggling with that a bit. We focused on it a lot this week and it paid off.”
It should not be a surprise that the Flash have been slow to find their form in 2016. They have a new coach, Paul Riley, and a roster that has seen 100% turnover from the group that began the season just two years ago. The mass exodus has left Mewis in something of a leadership role less than 30 games into her professional career.
“We have so many leaders,” Mewis demurred. “Obviously Abby Erceg is our captain and that’s so great but if at any point anybody is having a down day there’s three or four other people there to pick the tam up. If I’m a little off one day there’s Jess McDonald who was our captain tonight (Erceg was serving a red card suspension), there’s Abby Dahlkemper who could be a captain in the future. There’s just so many people that are able to lead that it doesn’t all really fall on one person and that’s great.”
There was a growing sentiment around the Flash over the last two seasons that players were not pleased with long-time coach Aaran Lines. Only Carli Lloyd has ever commented publicly on Lines the coach, but the current group appears to be in lock-step behind Riley.
“I can’t say enough good things about Paul,” Mewis said. “He has been so great for me and great for this team. He really has a commanding presence. I think we all immediately just respected him and looked up to him and trusted in what he was doing. The way we play we’re just totally bought into his philosophy.”
Asked about the difference in the team this season Mewis said: “We have a new attitude. We’re looking at it in a whole new way. We have a lot of work to do still, but we’re really excited about going forward.”
Mewis was the 4th pick in what was a highly-rated 2015 draft class. The results have shown with Mewis being one of four players to have started every game since coming into the league (Dahlkemper, Danielle Colaprico and Megan Oyster). That streak will end Friday night when Mewis goes into camp with the U.S. while the Flash host the Breakers and her older sister Kristie.
“I obviously wish I could stay and play but it’s an honor to get called into the national team and not something you can ever say no to. I’m looking forward to camp. I want to make a run at the [Olympic] roster.”